In case you have been wondering what’s happening to Cassini, the glorious space probe in its last months of 13-year mission, here’s the fact: Cassini has just entered its final phase, executing the first in a series of five “ultra-close” orbits through the planet’s atmosphere, which has never been previously explored.
The new data that the probe will deliver “include wind speed, atmospheric composition, and temperatures. At the same time, Cassini will study Saturn’s auroras and send radar signals deep inside the planet. Scientists hope that these observations, and the observations of the few orbits left, will provide valuable insights into the ringed gas giant.
Unfortunately, good science takes time, so it might be months or even years before we learn all of the impacts of Cassini’s work. But until then, we can trust that the spacecraft did everything it could to learn all of Saturn’s secrets.” (Read the full article here.)
You can access the new raw images sent over by Cassini in this last phase of its mission directly on the NASA website gallery, at this link. Some of them are truly stunning.
Cassini will terminate the last orbit in early September, after which it will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15 for the final dive.